“‘D’oh.’ Tonight on Fox.”
How long did it take you to start thinking of “The Simpsons”? About two seconds?
Fox Broadcasting thinks that’s about right.
The company, the first to buy into the theory that less is more when it comes to radio advertising, is turning to Clear Channel Communications Inc.’s two-second ads to promote the fall season of “The Simpsons.”
Fox is among many in Hollywood that have embraced the San Antonio-based company’s pioneering super-short radio ads, which debuted last year. But despite Clear Channel’s proclamation that the spots are a Hollywood hit, it’s a love affair that — like most things in Hollywood — may not be all that it seems.
“I’m not sure if the success of shorter radio ads can be quantified,” said Fred Moran, a Stanford Group financial analyst who follows the radio industry. “I see them as just another tool in this effort to get these messages out there without overtaxing listeners.”
For someone like Homer Simpson, a two-second “blink” or five-second “adlet” may be enough to resonate with fans who have spent the past two decades following the television family’s exploits. But for many brands, two seconds — although too short to skip — just isn’t enough time to get a message across.
“I don’t think you can make a full campaign out of one-second spots, adlets or blinks,” said Dennis McGuire, a New York-based vice president and regional spot director for the global media buyer Carat. “Clients have to get a lot out in their commercial message.”
Still, McGuire said the spots, which sell for about 1/2 the cost of a more traditional 60-second ad, are a good buy for advertisers looking to reinforce TV, print and existing radio messages.
“The whole idea is to use them to plant an idea in the head,” he said.
Fox, like most companies experimenting with shorter ad lengths, uses Clear Channel’s blinks in conjunction with longer spots.
“This really is about ways to get more frequency and be a little more intrusive,” said Kaye Bentley, a Fox Broadcasting senior vice president who handles national ad buys, affiliate marketing and on-air promotion. Blinks and adlets generally run between songs or after station breaks.
“Combined with 30- or 60-second spots in a full hour, you get the full message with a couple of reminders,” Bentley said.
Fox uses shorter ads primarily for programs with iconic sounds. “When Homer says, ‘D’oh,’ you automatically know who it is. There’s no longer explanation needed,” Bentley said.
Clear Channel admits its blinks and adlets probably aren’t right for advertisers that need a little more time to explain a product or service, limiting the pool of potential buyers.
“The best advertisers for extreme short lengths are ones with an established branded message,” said Jim Cook, senior vice president of creative for Clear Channel Radio.
MTV used Clear Channel’s blinks to promote “The Real World.” NBC used adlets for “Heroes.” And Fox, in addition to using blinks for “The Simpsons,” has employed them to advertise “House” and “Prison Break.”
Users outside the entertainment industry include Helzberg Diamonds, hamburger vendor Krystal, the New York State Lottery and Sarah Jessica Parker’s new scent, Lovely, Cook said.
Clear Channel said more than 100 advertisers have tried its shorter ads.
The ads are supposed to cut radio clutter, one of the public’s most frequent complaints about the medium, which in recent years has been locked in a battle with the Internet, iPods and MP3s for listeners.
CBS Radio also has begun airing shorter ads.
“In a world where we’ve begun to absorb everything in shorter lengths, things are being boiled down to their basic essences,” Cook said.
Meena Thiruvengadam, San Antonio Express-News